This is a tough review to write.
The short version would simply say: Juno is perfect. The long version would involve me rhapsodizing about every single scene. Let me see if I can settle for something midway.
For those of you who know nothing of the movie, it involves a teenage girl named Juno who winds up pregnant after having sex with her best friend Paulie, decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. She finds what seems like the perfect couple: Mark and Vanessa Loring. However, as time goes by, she finds that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
What distinguishes Juno right from the start is how smart the dialogue is. It is a rare movie that packs so much wit per minute of running time. There has been some criticism about this, in the sense that people seldom talk this way in real life. That is true, but I think we go to watch movies like Juno and Pulp Fiction because it has people who speak the way we wish people did in real life.
However, it is not all one-liners either. Watch the quiet little scene involving Mark and Vanessa where she wonders what colour to paint the nursery walls, and Mark responds with gentle sarcasm. There is such economy in the writing, and such delicate and wonderful timing in the way the actors bring the scene to life. Or the scenes where you see the pressures of having to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and the criticism of her peers slowly getting to Juno. Or the little exchange between father and daughter right at the end that moved me to tears. I could go on.
The beauty of it is, it all seems so effortless and obvious. The movie starts off funny and pulls out the heavy artillery in the second act, but never does it seem forced. That is fantastic writing, and Diablo Cody richly deserves the Oscar she got for Best Original Screenplay.
Much of this works because the acting is top-notch. J K Simmons and Allison Janney are fantastic as Juno’s parents. Michael Cera brings a certain quiet charm to the proceedings as Paulie. Jennifer Garner gives a performance that may just be career-defining. And Ellen Page as Juno deserves much better praise than I can possibly come up with in my most rapturous mood.
The beauty of Juno is that, above all else, it loves its characters. By the time it ends, every character is exactly where he or she should be, and you couldn’t be happier for them.